Adam Hsu Kung Fu

Traditional Chinese Martial Arts  

 

Summary of Sifu Han Ching-Tan's Martial Art: Part 2

Sifu Han's Martial Arts Career

By Adam Hsu

(Translated by Joan-Huey Dow)

 

After Sifu Han moved to Taiwan, he always stayed in the family housing of the Police Academy located at Liu Zhou Street. Students and children often practiced wushu in the housing courtyard. At the Academy, he taught classes like chin na, shuai jiao, etc.

When Sifu Chang Dong-Sheng came to Taiwan, Sifu Han voluntarily offered a shuai jiao class for Sifu Chang to teach to help him get settled. The only reason, Sifu Han said: "Sifu Chang is number one in shuai jiao."

The Police Academy invited Mr. Zhao Long-Wen, who highly respected Sifu Han, as the president. He endorsed Sifu Han’s book “Applied Police Techniques” with his Chinese calligraphic writing for the book title on the cover. He also wrote the preface and published the book. (This book was later reprinted and published by Wu Chou Publishing Company).

In addition to the classes at the Academy, Sifu Han also taught wushu in the Taipei Botanical Garden and Taipei New Park in the morning. He interacted with people of diverse social status to promote the habit of early rising for wushu practice to the society. He did not charge a class fee, unless students offered it voluntarily. His only requirement for them was to practice diligently.

Furthermore, he established wushu clubs in many high schools and above, such as Jian Guo High School and National Taiwan University, and served as advisor and teacher in these clubs.

Sifu Han's influence was profound and lasting: He continually established wushu clubs in more schools and gradually trained his own students to teach in those schools. His students were encouraged and followed their master’s footsteps: They not only taught classes with enthusiasm but also set up new clubs in schools.

Over the past several decades, school wushu clubs nurtured many talented wushu practitioners. We heard many nice stories about father-and-son and brothers joining the same wushu clubs one after another. It was Sifu Han’s contribution making traditional wushu a widely accepted exercise by the society.

Wushu training made these young students stronger and healthier and this supported their study in school and future contributions to the society. At the same time, their participation in wushu also enhanced the quality of the wushu community.

Many students of these wushu clubs went abroad to study, start their careers, and get married. At the same time, they still continued promoting Chinese martial arts. Some of them who became doctors or engineers even quit their specialized fields to pursue a career as martial arts teachers. Therefore it was important to start wushu training at younger age to plant wushu roots deeper in their hearts.

At the end of World War II, China regained the governance of Taiwan after fifty years of Japanese rule. An organization named “Taiwan Wushu Association” was formed and led by Mr. Wang Cheng-Zhang who had backgrounds in both military and police (not the same person who was once in the Martial Arts Academy, won the championship and was a Praying Mantis master). Although it claimed the goal of promoting wushu on the surface, its real intention was to monitor and placate local community members who might be reluctant to accept the newly arrived government.

This Association periodically organized competitions and performances and then awarded participants with medals and honors. They issued teacher certificates and traditional medicine doctor certificates loosely. They also collected fees on a regular basis for their sponsored activities to obscure their intention. The health and police departments allowed their business activities, held in night markets, without imposing strict rules either. All these efforts were to gain their support and appreciation. During elections, they would be willing to support and vote for the government-nominated candidates. Furthermore they would not act against the government and could potentially become a strong force to assist the government.

Mr. Chen Pan-Ling had been the vice president of “Central Chinese Martial Arts Academy.“ The Academy’s original initiators, Yu Yo-Ren,. Wu Tse-Hui, Li Zong-Huang and Nu Yong-Jian, were also in Taiwan. Therefore they decided to rebuild the Academy and actually worked together for several years.

Mr. Chen lived in Taichung and had very active social relations with his former colleagues, government officers and his students. Although they identified a location for the new Academy, they did not receive the government's support. As a result they formed the “Chinese Martial Arts Training Institute” to conduct their activities. It was later reorganized as “Chinese Martial Arts Association.” The board of directors consisted of many influential leaders: the director of China Youth Corps, the speaker of Taiwan Provincial Council and the commander in chief of Taiwan Garrison Command. It clearly showed sincere support and supervision from the government.

“Taipei Wushu Association” was once under “Taiwan Wushu Association.” When Taipei became a special municipality, “Taipei Wushu Association” was automatically upgraded and under the leadership of Mr. Huang Shan-De who had police background.

An interesting fact was: The three organizations, “Taiwan Wushu Association,” “Chinese Martial Arts Association,” and “Taipei Wushu Association,” had no relation with each other and each one had its own agenda. There was one more organization “Martial Arts Commission” which was under “Sports Commission” and led by Mr. Hu Wei-Ker, who had air force and political backgrounds. All these organizations exerted their best effort to demonstrate their values and superiority to others.

After the Nationalist party lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan, the government’s top priority was to maintain public order and gain people’s trust. Many activities were conducted in the name of wushu, but little accomplishments for wushu were actually achieved in the end. The martial arts community was deceived and could not awake to the truth. Their supporters, lacking self-confidence and independence, kept hoping that one day a supernatural being would come to their rescue.

All wushu organizations had very high regard for Sifu Han. Thus Sifu Han always devoted himself to support them and bring them together to make more contribution to the society. The most important thing was: Sifu Han always had beliefs and expectations of the government, but his hopes fell through over and over again and wushu was never well developed. All of this gave Sifu Han nothing but disappointment, confusion, disbelief and depression.

When Hong Kong film companies came to Taiwan to shoot kung fu movies, Director Tu Guang-Qi (and Mr. Jiang Nan later) suggested that only the “Northern Style Wushu” be used in the movie because it was elegant and powerful. So they invited Sifu Han to be the wushu director although there was no such positional title at that time. Sifu Han then invited some of his martial arts colleagues, such as Sifu Wang Song-Ting, Sifu Liu Mu-Sen and students, to participate in the filming.

At that time Mr. Wang Yuen-Long (a movie star) was still alive and he often hung out drinking with Sifu Han. His students worried about his health and so hid the alcohol from him. Their efforts were to no avail; Sifu Han and Mr. Wang would eventually find it and continue drinking together.

Most move stars did not have martial arts skills although they could pose and act very well. It was very difficult to perform the fighting scenes for actors like Jing Feng, Zeng Jiang, Huang Zong-Xiun and actresses like Lian Di, Rong Rong, and Xiao Fang-Fang (when she was a child star). Therefore the filming crew used wushu students as stunt-doubles and small-structured male students for female stars!

During that period of time, movies like “Nineteen Swordsmen from Blue Mountain," “Light of the Saber and Shadow of the Sword” and “The Heroine's Red Scarf” were produced. Wushu in these movies advanced to a new technical and artistic height.

For the history of film industry, especially for wushu movies, the transformation was made through a few series of movies including “Red Lily Temple Immolation,” “Riverside Heroine” by actress Yu Su-Chou and “Dragon Door Inn” by director Hu Jing-Quan.

When the American boxing champion Joe Louis visited Taiwan, Sifu Wang Shu-Jing, who learned martial arts with Mr. Chen Pan-Ling in Taichung, proposed a challenge with him. Mr. Guo Lian-Yin, who taught martial arts on the basketball court of National Taiwan University, also proposed a challenge. The challenges were not accepted and it created wide comment from various circles.

While visiting southern Taiwan, Mr. Louis had a demonstration match with Mr. Zhang Luo-Pu who was known as the King of Asian Boxing. Mr. Louis defeated Mr. Zhang in just a few rounds.

Yet when Mr. Louis visited Sifu Han, he expressed his respect for Chinese kung fu and presented his autographed picture to Sifu Han.

Mr. Robert Smith was one of the earliest Chinese martial arts writers from the U.S. He practiced wushu with Sifu Han when he was in Taiwan. Later on, Mr. Smith presented Sifu Han to the West in one of his books and commended Sifu Han as one of the grandmasters for “Shaolin” wushu.

Mr. I Zi Jian (in transliteration) from the U.S. CIA learned wushu with Sifu Han while he was on assignment in Taiwan. He filmed Sifu Han’s performance in Taipei New Park with an 8 mm camera, which was later transferred to videocassette and DVD. Although there were many other recordings of Sifu Han’s performances and demonstrations, those video collections are very hard to find nowadays. Therefore this is the most precious and the only one still available to date.

Sifu Han was invited to the Philippines to teach in “Hwa Ing Physical Education Institute.” Due to a heavy workload and problems in adjusting to the local environment, his health condition deteriorated and therefore he decided not to renew the contract. Because he offered many of his martial arts classes free, it became difficult for him to support his big family by his modest salary. In Manila, he even sold the sword purchased by Mrs. Han (Chang Tan-Chu) in Wu Shan, China, and engraved with the Chinese characters for “Tan-Chu purchased at Wu Shan.” What a pity!

Sifu Han was a sincere and kind person who lacked any interest in saving money or seeking advantage for himself. His generosity was very high to the point that even some of his students and friends took advantage of him. When Mrs. Han in Taiwan (Li Yun-Fang) gave him well-meaning advice, he scolded her for hurting his code of brotherhood He was also deaf to all earnest suggestions offered by his children and students.

Sifu Han retired from his teaching position in the Police Academy and lived on his modest pension. But he lost all in helping his friends.

As Sifu Han started to feel the passage of years, he could no longer contribute to society as he wanted. He endured his sadness alone and often drank heavily to numb himself from his pain and sorrow. Before he passed away he could not even recognize his own family members! His family, friends and students visited him on his birthday to congratulate him, but they all left in tears.

Sifu Han passed away in 1976. Sifu Chang Dong-Sheng was in charge of the memorial and funeral arrangements. Sifu Han was buried in the Police Cemetery located in Nei Hu.

Mrs. Han, who never learned martial arts, was a diligent and humble housewife with extraordinary endurance and a big heart.

His first daughter, Ling-Ling, is married to Sifu’s student from Hong Kong, Liang Ji-Tsi, and now teaches martial arts in Boston. His second daughter, Bao-Ling, is his only child who did not learn martial arts. The youngest daughter, Jen-Ling, is married.

His first son, Shu-In (deceased), was very smart. The second son, Shu-Mei, is honest and sincere. Both of them have mastered martial arts better than their other siblings. They assisted Sifu Han’s class and also teach martial arts clubs in university and colleges. They coauthored a book, “Self Defense Techniques” published by Wu Chou Publishing Company.

Su-Mei established his own business and received a youth entrepreneur award. He responsibly looked after Mrs. Han and his siblings.

Sifu Han’s other sons, Shu-Ron, Shu-Jun, and Shu-Far, all learned martial arts, but they pursue their own career interests other than martial arts.

At Mrs. Han’s seventieth birthday, more than thirty family members came to congratulate and pay their respects. At her eightieth birthday, in addition to her family and friends, more than a dozen students visited her. Mrs. Han kindly turned down red envelopes (a Chinese custom to give gifts of cash in red envelopes), setting a good example to be followed.

Sifu Han created a new character by combining the characters for Chinese martial arts together and proudly posted it on the front door. Although he showed it to his students and friends all the time, it was not accepted by others.

In addition, Sifu Han wrote “Chinese Martial Arts is Omnipotent” and posted it on the door. He announced that he would teach all his techniques, including long fist and short strike, shuai jiao and chin na, short and long weapons, solo and two person practice without any reservation to promote martial arts.

Sifu Chang Dong-Shen dissuaded him from doing this. Sifu Han accepted the suggestion and removed the posting. This case demonstrated the solid friendship and trust between them.

Sifu Han was very good in abstract painting with the Chinese brush pen to illustrate martial arts practice. For example, a big stroke at the center represents the head and the body; two medium strokes at the bottom are the legs sitting at stances such as “climbing mountain” or “horse;” and two small strokes show the arms at postures like punching, chopping or blocking.

His friends always asked for his paintings and treated them as priceless collections. His students tried to imitate his paintings but no one was able to express the character and strength up to Sifu Han’s level.

To be continued ...

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